MEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY AND CELEBRITY TRIALS, by Raven Woods
Before we move any further let me urge everyone to read the December 20th 2016 article by Raven Woods in the Huffington Post.
There is no chance to reblog from there, so I’ve taken the liberty to reproduce a big part of it here as it is a splendid overview of the Robson case (prior to the recent news about his emails) and a must read for latecomers like myself. The article is a great way to catch up and learn more.
This is not the full text of the article, so for the original please go to the above link and leave your comment there.
Media Accountability and Celebrity Trials: Recent Proof Why We Still Have a Long Way To Go
12/20/2016 03:10 pm ET | Updated Dec 22, 2016
Raven Woods is an author, educator, pop culture journalist and author of Allforloveblog
Why have the last six months seen such an increase in negative publicity against the late Michael Jackson?
It would certainly seem that if there was going to be a rush of posthumous claims against his estate for sexual abuse that those would have occurred within the first year of his passing. But that didn’t happen.
Indeed, the history of allegations made against the late singer has an interesting and almost predictable pattern. The first two allegations made against him – those which occurred in his lifetime – were made at exactly ten year intervals. Both occurred at just the time when Jackson was planning a major project or, as in the case of the Arvizo allegations in 2003, when a major comeback plan was in the works. Both occurred as a direct result of the same attorneys and the same prosecuting district attorney being involved in both cases. And both cases were simultaneously egged on and cheered from the sidelines by the same cast of media players. If we connect the dots, it doesn’t take much detective work to determine that there remains a direct correlation between the players in those cases and what is happening now – and that the pattern continues.
To be sure, all of it can be pinpointed to exactly one source, and that is a recently amended claim by choreographer Wade Robson as part of his ongoing civil complaint against MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. To briefly recap, Robson first attempted to go after the Michael Jackson estate in 2013 after claiming he suddenly recalled years of “repressed memories” of sexual abuse. That case was eventually thrown out. But Robson’s civil claim against Michael Jackson’s companies is, for the time being at least, still on. A trial is currently scheduled to begin in March of 2017.
Since its initiation, Robson’s case has gone through at least two sets of attorneys and the number of revolving amendments to this complaint continue to change with such predictable regularity that it has become glaringly obvious that Robson and his attorneys are simply going for whatever they think might stick. It has also become increasingly obvious in recent weeks that Robson’s current attorneys are determined to play the case out in the media, and it is no coincidence that they have been directly responsible for the media smear campaign against Jackson that has been steadily ongoing since the week of Jackson’s death anniversary last June. At that time, Robson’s attorneys – working hand in hand with tabloid Radar Online – created a media sensation by releasing an explosive story regarding alleged “child porn” found at Neverland during the infamous 2003 raid when Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon sent over seventy armed officers to ransack Jackson’s residence.
There was only one problem. The story was a complete hoax, based on 12-year-old court documents that were not only presented to the judge and jury during Jackson’s trial (at which time he was fully acquitted) but have also been available to the public since 2006. Robson’s attorneys attempted desperately—just as had a desperate prosecution a decade earlier— to build a case of child porn possession against Jackson on the grounds of his adult (and, we might add, perfectly legal) art book collection. The jury didn’t buy the argument then, and after the hoax was exposed to the media, it seems Robson must have either made haste to dump his then attorneys or else they quickly bailed out of a sinking ship.
Many of Jackson’s fans believe the entire root of Robson’s claim is little more than an extortion attempt, with Robson and his attorneys waging that the negative publicity will force the Michael Jackson estate’s hand in a cash settlement. And although it is a suspicion that cannot be proven, it is certainly not without merit, given the long history of lawsuits waged against Jackson’s estate and the fact that Robson’s attorneys pride themselves on their long history of negotiating substantial settlements for their clients.
The simple fact is that Robson’s initial claim, back in 2013, registered little media attention. He did do an interview on The Today Show, but beyond that, media interest in his story and in his case all but fizzled. Many understandably questioned his motives. Why come forward now, five years after Michael Jackson’s death when he is no longer here to defend himself against such an allegation? For Robson, in particular, there were even more pointed and puzzling questions. As an adult in 2005, he had successfully and of his own free will testified in Jackson’s defense at his trial, which means he swore under oath that he had never had an improper relationship with Jackson. When Jackson died in 2009, he actually begged the Jackson family to give him a seat at the memorial service, according to Taj Jackson:
Wade begged me on the phone to be invited to my uncles memorial in 2009. This is his follow up email. Don’t believe his lies.
Text of the email:
Hey It’ Wade Robson. Here is my list for the MJ memorial on Tuesday the 7th, 2009.
THE ROBSON FAMILY Wade Robson, Amanda Robson,Joy Robson, Chantal Robson, Shane Robson, Erica Robson, Phillipe Casseus. We are aoign to be in ONE hired SUV. If there are any preferred parking passes or something like that, that would be amazing to have. How will we pick up our credentials/tickets/parking passes? Thank you so much. Love, Wade Robson
Later that year, Robson wrote a touching tribute to his late friend that became the introduction of the Michael Jackson Opus.
I used to talk to Michael for three hours a day. I never really worked out how he came to find so much time because he seemed so busy, but he would ring me and we would talk and talk and talk. When he got a cell phone he would call and text all the time. It was part of an amazing friendship that lasted for 20 years.
I had first met Michael when he was kicking off his Bad tour in 1987. I was five, but Michael’s company was holding a dance competition in every country and I entered the one in Brisbane. I remember being a kid and dancing to his video- the first ever I say was “Thriller” when I was two. It was my mum’s tape and I just went nuts over it. I used to run into the kitchen scared every time the werewolf came on. By the time I was three I had pretty much learned its entire choreography.
I ended up winning the dance competition. We went to see Michael in Brisbane and at a meet and greet I was introduced to him. I remember wearing a custom made outfit from “Bad”- my mum’s belt was wrapped around me, like five times. Michael was impressed and asked me if I had danced. I told him that I did and he said ” Do you want to perform with me in the show tomorrow night?”
I couldn’t believe it. He was due to play Brisbane the next night. His idea was for me to come out for the last song of the show which was “Bad”. He was bringing on some orphaned children so he figured it would be cool to bring me out in the full “Bad” outfit. At the end of the song we were all onstage- Stevie Wonder was there too and Michael came on and said “Come on”. I took it as him meaning “Get into it!”. I moved downstage and threw my hat into the crowd and started going crazy. When I turned around Michael was saying goodbye to the crowd, the other kids were gone and Stevie Wonder was being escorted off. What he meant was “Come on lets go, It’s over”.
When I realized, I ran off. After my mum and I spent two hours with Michael into his hotel and we became friends. He showed us clips from the new Moonwalker he was working on and we talked and talked. We didn’t really stay in contact but I joined a dance company- literally the next day and two years later I was in America to play at Disneyland. I got in touch with Michael through his people, he remembered me. Me and my family went to Record One Studio where he was mixing the Dangerous Album. I showed him some of my dance videos and he said to me. “Do you and your family want to come to Neverland tonight”? We all agreed and ended up staying for two weeks.
Our friendship blossomed. For two weeks he’d take me into his dance studio, put some music on and we’d dance and jam for hours. We’d sit there and watch films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Other times we’d just leave Neverland and drive out in a car, blasting music really loud.
He even taught me how to do the moonwalk. We were in his dance studio. He taught me foot by foot. I couldn’t sleep that whole night. The thrill of pushing off the bar and sliding backwards in a moonwalk with the guy that made it famous was so exciting.
Later, me and my mum wanted to move to America to pursue my dreams of becoming a dancer and he helped us out. He gave me a big start by putting me in some of his videos like “Black or White”. The role he took on was one of a mentor.
He told me when I was seven that I’d be a film director and that’s what I became; he created a thirst for knowledge in me. Once, a mini recording studio turned up on my doorstep, but what was cool was that he stopped me from becoming a spoiled brat. He would say “This is for you, but I want to see you do something with it. Don’t take it for granted or I’ll take it back”.
The last time I saw him was in July 2008. I was in Vegas working on a show and he was living there. Me, my wife and him and his three kids had a barbecue. It was the most normal thing in the world. Me and my wife had been to Whole foods and bought stuff to cook. But when we got there he’d provided loads of catering. I said, “Dude, Why did you bring loads of catering? We’ve got regular food here”. I remember cooking outside while Michael sat there under an umbrella.
We had great times because he was such a caring person. Most of all I’ll miss those phone conversations. I still have my mobile phone with his number on it. I just can’t bear the thoughts of deleting his messages.
Michael Jackson changed the world and, more personally, my life forever. He is the reason I dance, the reason I make music, and one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of human kind. He was a close friend of mine for 20 years. His music, his movement, his personal words of inspiration and encouragement and his unconditional love will live inside of me forever. I will miss him immeasurably, but I know that he is now at peace and enchanting the heavens with a melody and a moonwalk. I love you Michael.
– Wade Robson
Since the Opus book was an officially estate sanctioned project, this means one thing: That Robson and the Michael Jackson estate were on good terms in 2009. They were still apparently on good terms as late as 2011, when Robson again jockeyed desperately to be assigned the role of director to the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil project. The Michael Jackson Immortal tour went on to gross millions and became one of the most successful touring acts in North America in 2012 and, again, in 2014-but it did so without Wade Robson at the helm. Robson never got the gig, which went instead to Jamie King.
The sudden “repressed memories” and allegations then surfaced in 2012. You do the math.
The fact that Robson testified for Jackson in 2005, begged for a seat at his memorial, wrote a glowing tribute for the Opus book, etc, may or may not mean much.
Those who believe Jackson was guilty will dredge up all of the usual and predictable arguments about the Stockholm syndrome and how victims often bond with their abusers and may not realize until years later that the intimacy they experienced with their abusers was, nevertheless, abuse. That argument, however, is a hard one to buy given that Robson was by this time long an adult, clearly acting of his own free will. For sure, the one thing we can’t ignore in this case is the near perfect timing of Robson’s allegations surfacing right about the time he had begged for-and was denied-the opportunity to direct The Michael Jackson Immortal world tour.
None of these events are exactly coincidences of timing. Has anyone thought to actually question why all of these supposedly official court documents are being put out as media press releases, or conveniently popping up as alleged “leaks?” The timing of the current media smear campaign against Jackson coincided conveniently with Jackson’s seventh year death anniversary and with the switching of Robson’s attorneys. In addition, this latest amendment to Robson’s claims comes on the heels of a dispute that has dragged on for months regarding the Jackson estate’s request to depose Robson following a mental evaluation. It would seem that a lot of side steps are being taken in order to avoid what an independent mental evaluation of Robson might reveal.
The new amendment would put less burden on Robson to attempt to “prove” he was sexually molested by Michael Jackson, which is already a hard sell and faces, perhaps, far too many legal uphill battles (including the statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims and his legal sworn testimony in 2005, for which in order to win this case he must admit to committing perjury then) and, instead, shifts that burden onto Michael Jackson’s companies.
But that still leaves a lot of troubling questions, none of which any media outlets reporting on this amendment seem willing to ask. For example, in the wake of this new amendment many media outlets rushed to publish Finaldi, Stewart and Manly’s salacious claim that “Jackson’s production company designed, developed, and operated what is likely to be the most sophisticated child sexual abuse procurement and facilitation organization the world has ever known” without taking into account that the entire amendment rests on a very fallacious premise—Jackson was the boss of his companies and, therefore, his employees worked for him, not vice versa. Therefore, the idea that the companies somehow had an obligation to “control” their own boss is already a ludicrous claim, and from a legal standpoint alone, puts them on shaky ground.
But getting past the shaky legalities, there is another, even bigger problematic issue for Robson’s attorneys. The current amendment is reliant on the premise of Jackson’s companies as “grooming agents” who snared a young Wade Robson when, in fact, it was Robson’s own mother, Joy Robson, who first contacted Michael Jackson when the Australian family came to California on what was apparently a stalking mission to track down Michael Jackson. That admission comes directly from Joy Robson’s own court testimony, in which she also admits they had no contact with Jackson for over two years after the dance competition that Robson won in 1987 (thus further damaging the claim made by Finaldi, Stewart and Manly that Jackson began a two year grooming process almost immediately).
25 DIRECT EXAMINATION
26 BY MR. MESEREAU:
27 Q. Good morning, Miss Robson.
28 A. Good morning. 9210
1 Q. Miss Robson, where is your home?
2 A. In Sherman Oaks, California.
3 Q. And do you know the fellow seated at counsel
4 table to my right?
5 A. Yes, I do.
6 Q. Who is he?
7 A. That’s Michael Jackson.
8 Q. How long have you known him?
9 A. 18 years.
10 Q. And how did you meet Mr. Jackson?
11 A. Originally, in Australia in —
12 Q. I think you need to speak up a little bit.
13 A. Sorry. In Australia. He was touring on the
14 “Bad” tour, and my son Wade was five years old and
15 won a Michael Jackson look-alike/dance-alike
17 Q. Did you develop a friendship with Michael
19 A. Not immediately. Two years later, we
20 returned to the United States for — Wade was
21 dancing here, and we reassociated with him at that
22 point, and became friends from there, from 1989.
23 Q. Are you still Michael Jackson’s friend?
24 A. Absolutely.
In fact, since last summer, every new amendment to this case has been handled in the same predictable fashion, with a splashy press release and a thinly veiled threat to the Michael Jackson estate of “more to come” if certain demands are not met. It may be no coincidence that within this same time frame, we have seen a host of negative programming and stories relating to the Jackson case, including a horrifically biased and inaccurate episode of Reelz channel’s Rich and Acquitted. It was also in the immediate aftermath of a written threat by Finaldi, Manly and Stewart to the Michael Jackson estate in September of 2016—and the planting of the “pedophilia ring” story-that a most viciously nasty spirited hit piece by Linda Stasi was published in The New York Daily News.
It should be noted here that Stasi has been, along with Diane Dimond and a handful of others, among a select group of reporters who have gone beyond merely reporting on Jackson to having made his “guilt” their life’s mission. Without even the slightest veneer of professional journalistic objectivity, Stasi proceeded to parrot the accusation of Jackson’s companies as a “sophisticated pedophile ring” as fact, rather than as allegation, along with many other interestingly stacked phrases like “freak” and “monster” which have no place in objective media reporting. Well, there may be good reason for that, since from the get-go, Stasi made no attempt to even disguise her piece as objective journalism.
“Michael Jackson was a rich and famous freak,” Stasi stated within the article’s first paragraph, “so he had his own private, pedophilia institute in order to abuse and destroy children.” (This comes after an initial introductory sentence ludicrously comparing MJJ Productions and MJ Ventures to the Catholic church). The article goes on:
“It was called Neverland Ranch, where he kept exotic animals in a zoo and exotic children in his bed. That’s what I believe at any rate.”
Aside from the fact that one might take issue with her description of “exotic children” (whatever the holy heck that is supposed to mean), she neatly gives the game up with the clincher statement, “That’s what I believe at any rate.”
Well, Ms. Stasi, if you can express whatever you believe, then others can certainly state what they believe, including me. And I am calling bull. But it gets worse. The article goes on to outright accuse Jackson of having been the one to order a hit on his sister-in-law Delores Jackson, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1994. Donald Bohana was convicted of her murder in 1998 and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. With no evidence other than an alleged phone call from an unnamed Jackson relative, Stasi proceeded in her article to outright accuse Jackson of having ordered the hit on his sister-in-law. In the ultimate act of delusional irony, this same reporter who claims to have had too much journalistic integrity back then to print a story with no evidence to back it up apparently has absolutely no qualms about printing the exact, same accusation in 2016, with no further evidence to substantiate it than she had in 1994. What has changed? The fact that Jackson now, unlike in 1994, is dead and can’t defend himself? Or more likely that, being deceased, is unable sue for libel?
This would seem the likely reason, but the truth is even uglier. Ever since the Chandler scandal broke in 1993, there has been a small but extremely vituperative and vocal minority of journalists whose vendetta against Jackson and his acquittal has become more than personal—to the point that one has to seriously question why. That is, why their invested interest in the case against him is so fanatical to the point that the hatred literally drips from every line of their poison pens? Or why a beloved entertainer and humanitarian is allowed to be described in terms we would normally reserve only for the most vile of serial killers and rapists, based only on accusations that twenty years ongoing, remain circumstantial at best.
The latest addition was (for the media, at least) a rather shocking allegation of abuse from a now adult female victim whose identity has only been released thus far as “Jane Doe.” This time, Finaldi, Manly and Stewart took a slightly different approach, “leaking” the story first to gossip rag TMZ rather than their usual go-to mouthpiece Radar Online. Interestingly, this allegation came only weeks on the heels of salacious claims published by Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, as part of his sordid tell-all memoir, that Jackson wanted to marry Emma Watson when she was only twelve years old. Has anyone thought to connect the dots on these allegations? For over twenty years, the world was aware that Michael Jackson had been accused of molesting boys, but nothing had ever been heard from a female accuser. Then suddenly, Murray’s memoir makes such accusations and-voile’-within weeks we learn a female accuser has jumped on board Robson’s lawsuit!
But who is this alleged Jane Doe, and more importantly, does she even exist?
As usual, media outlets rushed to copy and paste the story without bothering to give even the slightest veneer of scrutiny to the alleged “evidence” being presented. This included a photocopied series of highly suspicious looking cashier’s checks, a series of handwritten notes supposedly written by Michael Jackson to the plaintiff, and an embarrassingly bad photoshopped picture alleged to be of Jackson and the plaintiff.
TMZ posted the images of the alleged cashier’s checks and, without batting an eye, boldly proclaimed them as evidence that “Michael Jackson wrote a bunch of checks totaling over $900,000 to cover up child sex abuse allegations from a then-12-year-old girl…” It is an age old media tactic, of course, especially among the gossip tabloids. Headlines and opening liners are intended to present lurid allegations as factual information, and it is only when the reader bothers to actually delve into the story that they get the truth in very fine print.
But what about the “evidence?” The alleged notes to the girl certainly do not mean much, as there is nothing inappropriate or explicit in their contents, and certainly nothing that was out of character for Jackson in his correspondences with young fans. It was always Jackson’s style to gush affectionately when corresponding with his young fans, male or female. There is nothing here that is particularly unique, nor evidence of unlawful behavior; nothing here that Jackson might not have written to his own daughter Paris.
Lastly, we do not even know if the letters have been authenticated. Many Jackson fans have already pointed out some interesting discrepancies in the handwriting of the notes, which may be worth considering. The interesting irony is that Jackson’s handwriting-much like his vocal style and dance moves-was so unique that it has invited many knock-off imitations, and through the years there has certainly been no shortage of forged items purporting to contain Jackson’s signature or to be written in his unique signature style.hand.
His writing, particularly (Jackson was well known for his flourished, child-like scrawl and blocky letters) is an easy style to mimic; therefore, an easy style to duplicate. Again, without authentication, there is simply no way to know.
I also find it puzzling that a series of random notes, supposedly written on several different occasions over a period of months and years, would all be written on apparently the same notepad paper out of the same notebook, or that after thirty years, they would somehow remain magically in the same pristine condition as when they were first written!
Neither are the purported checks sufficient evidence. There are still far too many loopholes for this “evidence” to hold up under scrutiny. The most obvious is that if she had cashed the checks, they would not be in her possession. Banks do not return checks or copies of checks to the payee.
If she didn’t cash them, then the story gets even murkier. Who the heck would sit on that kind of money for over thirty years without bothering to cash the checks? Are we supposed to believe that this girl or her parents would have said, “You know, we have these checks from Michael Jackson but let’s just hang onto them, you know, in case we decide to join a lawsuit against his companies thirty years down the road.” Yes, makes perfect sense. Also, there is nothing on those images to indicate that Michael Jackson ever signed them-that most crucial bit of evidence that one would think would be most important if the checks are expected to hold up as evidence in a civil court, let alone a tabloid story. Any reference to the payee has, of course, been redacted, which leads to another troubling issue: With no signature from either party (either of Jackson or the alleged victim) there is simply no way to know what the purpose of these alleged checks may actually have been, or to who they were written, or even if they came directly from Michael Jackson.
Interestingly, at least one of the checks has as its indicated purpose a “Cash Request.” Granted, this could have been a mere cover but in that case why not just refer to it as a “Gift” or something equally vague? A “Cash Request” would seem to indicate that the payee had actually made a request for the cash, which negates the whole idea of the check’s purpose being “hush money.” Also, it makes absolutely no sense that if Jackson had started abusing the girl at twelve, he would have waited four years, until she turned fifteen, to begin a pay out. He would have wanted to ensure her compliance as soon as possible-not four years down the road.
That leads us to the real clincher: Even if we assume that Jackson did write the checks and did bestow monetary gifts on “Jane Doe” that still doesn’t equate to proof of sexual molestation. Jackson was a celebrity known for the legendary generosity he often bestowed upon friends, fans, and even casual acquaintances. Like Elvis Presley and many other celebrities who grew up poor only to find themselves awash in “new money,” Jackson spent on others as lavishly as he spent on himself. This is a man who would think nothing of writing a three figure check if he was given a good enough sob story. He donated millions in his lifetime to help children and families in need. Even a casual search into his humanitarianism reveals countless stories of children whose lives he saved, or whose funerals and burials he paid for, or whose medical expenses he covered. When a family in Germany lost everything they owned in a flood, he invited them to Neverland and gave them assistance.
So if truth be told, we know Jackson donated a lot of money through the years to help practically anyone who asked him for help. This leads to a very troubling conundrum. So of all those many unfortunate families and children who hit Jackson up for money and favors throughout the decades-anyone for whom he may have cut a check as a personal favor or gift-any of them now can come out of the woodwork and claim that the money they received from Jackson was for some nefarious purpose. And who is going to be able to dispute or deny it, any more than it can be proven or unproven? The tragedy is that the whole “smoke and mirrors” myth that has been erected around Jackson and sexual allegations against minors-one that the media has been responsible for perpetuating-makes it almost perfectly believable to accept these stories at face value. This is how the media operates. It has been the modus operandi of Jackson’s accusers for over twenty years.
The ultimate tragedy is that it just may have created the perfect smokescreen, one in which Michael Jackson’s own unchecked generosity and willingness to help anyone in need can now be used against him.
In 2012, I broke a story-based on a tip I had received from writer Melinda Pillsbury-Foster- of a 1997 attempt to frame a sexual abuse allegation against Michael Jackson that came directly from a dubious relation to the British royal family, who even attempted to use his own son as the “bait.”
And as for that “photo” of Jackson and the alleged female victim-you know, the one bearing the copyright insignia of Finaldi, Stewart and Manly-the photo appears suspiciously fake.
C’mon, did anyone NOT notice the mysteriously unaligned hand and extra set of fingers that Jackson seemed to have sprouted on the girl’s left shoulder, or the mysterious patch of red that is completely out of place with the rest of the background, or that Jackson’s head was somehow unnaturally superimposed over the display case behind them? Really? And yet several media outlets, from The Daily Mail to The Sun to The New York Daily News, ran this photo without hesitation.
But let’s cast all of that aside for a moment and assume the photo is authentic. Even if it is, what does that actually prove? That Michael Jackson posed for a photo with a young fan? Such photo ops were the norm for Jackson, but through the years, some fans lucky enough to have had that experience have used those ops for every purpose from inventing friendships that never existed to even inventing fantasy affairs that never existed. In this case, it seemed the only real justification for releasing the photo was to somehow validate “Jane Doe’s” existence, but with no name and only a highly questionable photo with a redacted image, there is no validation-only more dubious questions raised.
But then, let’s not forget this is coming from the same faction that tampered with police documents last summer in an attempt to convince the media and public that “lurid” images of child pornography had been discovered at Neverland. So we know now that at least one media hoax from Robson’s legal team has been committed, although it isn’t entirely certain if his current or former attorneys were the ones responsible for releasing the tampered documents. It may be worth noting that Robson’s former legal team withdrew from the case, and in light of all the recent media hi-jinx, one may certainly wonder why.
Now we have an obviously faked photo, a series of suspicious checks that literally prove nothing, and a new accusation from a nameless victim whose very existence has yet to be validated. The question is: Are we going to continue to allow the tales to grow taller on down the line as Robson’s team attempts to clamp the tourniquet they believe they have on Michael Jackson’s estate to pay out with a cash settlement?